Vulnerableyoungwomen is a word used in the English legal system by police, prosecuting lawyers and judges. It’s also used by members of the Anti Sex League and stands in contrast to a single word, Men. The latter names an animal category of heavy breathing predators whose prey of choice is, of course, vulnerableyoungwomen. But help is at hand! The Anti Sex League will rescue the vulnerableyoungwomen and hand the Men over to the judicial system.
Right now, British politicians are also talking about vulnerableyoungwomen. Perhaps they want to show that they can think about categories other than ordinaryhardworkingfamilies.
No one is going to start talking about vulnerablemiddle-agedwomen who go on package holidays to the Caribbean where every waiter is a Latin lover in disguise. No one wants to Rescue them. It’s just too embarrassing. They’re not young.
Nor is anyone going to talk about vulnerableyoungmen since we might then end up talking about predatory homosexuals and that would be homophobic. Fortunately, heterophobic discourse is quite politically correct.
We aren’t going to hear much about self-confidentyoungwomen either, since they don’t need rescuing and more importantly risk spoiling the game. Some of them are even known to despise the Anti Sex League.
The more serious problem is this. The casual, sexist rhetoric of vulnerableyoungwomen combined with the rhetorical over-extension of terms like trafficking and coercion results in a failure to address – using legislation ready-to-hand – the very real exploitation of specific groups of women, not necessarily large in number, but very much in need of the protection and help which the law and support services can provide.
It is labour-intensive work. Unfortunately, most of our police officers are currently investigating elderly male celebrities alleged to have put their hands up girls' skirts forty years ago.
It is unromantic work, too. Seriously exploited women may not be easy to work with. They may refuse help. They may not even be photogenic - which is a pity because the Anti Sex League would really like some photo ops. with pretty young girls they have Rescued.
The rhetoric is a distraction. Vulnerableyoungwomen is a tired and thoughtless expression.
Politicians should be pressing the police not to turn up stories the newspapers will slaver over (and pay back-handers for) but to work, patiently and probingly, at the difficult cases where women are trapped against their will in situations - many and varied - which are mentally and physically damaging. Hard work, unromantic work, frustrating work. No easy headlines. No votes to be won.